“Aggressive, grassroots communication” is needed to ensure that recent changes don’t adversely affect the local electoral process, according to a Shelby County Voter Alliance spokesman, who has joined with the Shelby County Election Commission in pitching a special open house set for Thursday (April 7).
The Voter Ready Open House for Greater Awareness of Polling Place Changes will take place from 4 p.m. to 7 p.m., with Shelby County voters invited to visit their new or existing election day polling places.
“Voting is so important. It affects so many aspects of our everyday life, especially when there are local elections” said Ian Randolph of the Shelby County Voter Alliance (SCVA), which he describes as a blend of faith-based organizations, union leaders, sororities, fraternities, the NAACP, education advocacy groups and others.
“The three elections that we have this year are so important and people need to come out and vote.”
SCVA’s outreach in conjunction with the Shelby County Election Commission (SCEC) primarily is focused on helping local residents find out where they must go to vote, said Randolph.
Precinct changes throughout Shelby County followed the Tennessee legislature’s recent approval of redistricting plans. Accounting for “cost and organizational efficiencies,” the SCEC has said “multiple changes” were needed, including polling place closures, mergers, relocations and name changes.
Linda Phillips, SCEC administrator, said the Voter Ready Open House is one of several steps being taken to prevent voter disenfranchisement, adding that she believes it is a first.
“The last redistricting the Election Commission didn’t really have time to react. So, this time everyone finished their work in enough time for us to actually take a hard look at the precincts and kind of take care of some of the problems that we had noted over the years.”
Every voter’s precinct number changed and about 250,000 voters will have new polling locations. During Voter Ready Open House on Thursday, every voting precinct will be open.
“There will be signage at the polling locations that have been closed, with a voter hotline number (222-1222). If they go to the wrong voting location for the open house it’s not a problem because we will have somebody at each location armed with a tablet to look up the voter and find out where they should vote so they will be ready for Election Day,” said Phillips.
The Shelby County Primary is May 3, followed on Aug. 4 by the County General, State and Federal Primary, Town of Arlington and the Memphis Special Election. Nov. 8 will be Election Day for the State and Federal General and Bartlett, Collierville, Germantown, Lakeland and Millington Municipal.
The deadline to vote for the May 3 election is April 4.
In addition to balloons, cookies and stickers for children, Open House will provide the opportunity to change addresses, view maps of precincts, as well as learn about the 2022 elections, register for the August and November elections and learn about early-voting dates.
“Early voting is the way to go,” said Randolph, “because you can go to any early-voting site and vote. It doesn’t matter where your precinct is. … But I know a number of people who enjoy the excitement of voting on Election Day.
“If you are one of those people and you are showing up to vote on Election Day, you need to know where your precinct is. … Go to the open house on April 7 to make sure you know where to go when Election Day comes.”
The deadline to vote for the May 3 election is midnight Monday (April 4) said Phillips.
According to T.C.A 2-2-109, a qualified voter must be properly registered no later than 30 days before the election. The Election Commission office will process any by-mail voter registration form that has been postmarked at least thirty 30 days before the election. T.C.A 2-2-109.
With the Election Commission office closed on April 4 for the holiday commemorating the death of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., those still seeking to register for the May 3 election must do so online, if they have a record – such as a driver’s license, learner’s permit or identification card – on file with the Tennessee Department of Safety.
Randolph said the non-partisan Shelby County Voter Alliance is responsible for staffing at least 60 of the polling locations.
“Our main focus is to increase voter participation and voter turnout,” he said.
“We want everyone in Shelby County, who is eligible to vote, to turn out to vote. We have a small majority of people who turn out to vote. These are the people who have influence in our county. Everybody who is eligible to vote needs to turn out to vote.”
Asked if the Shelby County Voter Alliance is taking a position on the call for opening of more precincts on the first two days of early voting for the May 3 primaries, Randolph said, “We would love to see all of the precincts open but our main position is turn out and early vote because you can go anywhere and early vote, not just your precinct.”
As for turnout for a county primary election, Phillips said, “Traditionally, we are lucky if we get 12 percent in a county primary in a midterm year. I would love to see 25 percent. …
“There are a lot of reasons people don’t come out in primaries because you do have to tell the poll worker party preferences and that is recorded and is public record.”
To find new or existing election day locations, visit shelbyvote.org, click the Voter Ready Open House banner and follow the instructions listed.
Or, call the Voter Information Hotline at 901-222-1222, 8 a.m. – 4:30 p.m., M – F. Extended hotline hours will be offered further into the election season.